Mansfield Parsonage

Written by Kyra C. Kramer
Review by Waheed Rabbani

This novel is essentially a rewrite of Jane Austen’s classic novel Mansfield Park. It opens with the arrival from London of adult siblings Mary and Henry Crawford at their half-sister and brother-in-law’s humble country home of Mansfield Parsonage. Soon they become acquainted with the residents of the neighboring estate, Mansfield Park: Lord and Lady Bertram, their daughters and sons, and niece Fanny Price. The novel’s plotline follows closely that of Mansfield Park, including most of the social activities, plays, and balls, pious Edmund Bertram’s attraction to Mary, as well as the devious Henry’s falling in love with Fanny and asking for her hand. At the behest of Lord Bertram, Fanny is sent home to Portsmouth, and the Crawfords return to London. From here, although the narratives of the two novels diverge, the basic plot remains the same.

Ms. Kramer notes that since Mansfield Park is regarded by Janeites and others to be Austen’s least-loved novel, she has retold the story from the viewpoint of a supporting character, the ill-treated Mary Crawford. Ms. Kramer has succeeded somewhat in her attempt to raise Mary to the level of Austen’s other famous heroines. Mary’s kindheartedness, wit, and knowledge of domestic and international affairs are aptly demonstrated. However, because Mary returns to London, the subsequent, important events at Mansfield and Portsmouth are merely told, unsatisfyingly, via letters and narratives by Henry and Edmund, although a scene of intense dialogue between Mary and Edmund is masterfully dramatized. The research and special efforts to emulate Jane Austen’s writing style and humor do show, but it feels overdone in places. Also, the inclusion of far too many extraneous, unrelated events and lengthy discussions are distracting. It appears that a sequel that advances Mary’s story may be forthcoming.